28 August, 2008

The Candidates And Gay Rights

This is the twenty-sixth post in an ongoing series regarding the major Presidential candidates and their views on civil liberties.

This post is about Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) views on gay rights.

About.com:Lesbian Life has done the up-front work for me. Their results match what I was able to find elsewhere.

So, let's get right to it. First, Barack Obama:

Barack Obama and Gay Rights in Illinois:

Barack Obama supported gay rights during his Illinois Senate tenure. He sponsored legislation in Illinois that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Employment Non-Discrimination:
Barack Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and believes it should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell - Gays in the Military:
Barack Obama believes we need to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. His campaign literature says, "The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve."
Gay & Lesbian Adoption:
Barack Obama believes gays and lesbians should have the same rights to adopt children as heterosexuals.
Barack Obama and Gay Marriage/ Civil Unions:

Although Barack Obama has said that he supports civil unions, he is against gay marriage. In an interview with the Chicago Daily Tribune, Obama said, "I'm a Christian. And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman."

Barack Obama did vote against a Federal Marriage Amendment and opposed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

He said he would support civil unions between gay and lesbian couples, as well as letting individual states determine if marriage between gay and lesbian couples should be legalized.

"Giving them a set of basic rights would allow them to experience their relationship and live their lives in a way that doesn't cause discrimination," Obama said. "I think it is the right balance to strike in this society."

Well, that's pretty simple and straightforward.

And for John McCain:

Employment Non-Discrimination:

John McCain does not support a federal non-discrimination law that would outlaw job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Same-Sex Marriage:

John McCain does not support same-sex marriage. From his website, " The family represents the foundation of Western Civilization and civil society and John McCain believes the institution of marriage is a union between one man and one woman. It is only this definition that sufficiently recognizes the vital and unique role played by mothers and fathers in the raising of children, and the role of the family in shaping, stabilizing, and strengthening communities and our nation."

However, he opposes a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Gay and Lesbian Adoption:

John McCain's stance on gay and lesbian adoption is unknown

Don't Ask, Don't Tell:

John McCain does not support gays and lesbians serving in the military. According to Earth Times in an April 16 letter to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), McCain says "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" "Unambiguously maintains that open homosexuality within the military services presents an intolerable risk to morale, cohesion and discipline."

He also stated on Meet the Press in November 2007, "I do believe the don't ask, don't tell policy has been very effective. We've got the best military we've ever had...I think it's logical to leave this issue alone."

More on John McCain and GLBT Issues:

  • Regarding the Federal Marriage Amendment, John McCain said, "The constitutional amendment we're debating today strikes me as antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans."
  • John McCain said he supported an Amendment to Arizona's Constitution that would ban gay marriages and deny government benefits to unmarried couples.
  • The only thing that's missing there in comparison to Obama is how McCain feels about "civil unions". However, VoteGopher has the story here.

    Senator McCain argues that policy on gay marriage and civil unions should not be decided by the federal government and should instead be decided by individual states. He opposed a proposed U.S. Constitutional Amendement defining marriage as between a man and a woman, calling the amendment "unnecessary and un-Republican."
    At the state level, McCain argues that decisions on gay marriage should not be made by the courts. He says that voters or their state representatives should have the freedom to set gay marriage policy. However, he personally opposes both gay marriage and civil unions. Accordingly, McCain supported a proposal to amend Arizona's constitution to ban gay marriage, and supports doing the same for California's constitution.

    In summary, Obama's pretty good here except that he doesn't favor gay marriage, but is ok with civil unions. McCain isn't completely awful. He's not in favor of anything in particular, other than letting the states decide on this issue for themselves. He's been adamantly opposed to any sort of federal involvement in either direction.

    The observant reader will notice that I left out the "hate crimes legislation" from all of the quoted articles. There are two reasons for that. One is that I plan on having a specific post dealing with that topic itself, and the second reason will be covered in that post.


    Obama: A-. Support of gay marriage would give him a solid A here. I think gay rights activists would probably not be thrilled with his belief that states should decide this issue on their own, but would rather have federal legislation/constitutional amendments recognizing gay marriages. However, at least he has opposed any federal efforts to curtail gay rights. His support is more of "back door" support, but at least it's support.

    McCain: D. One thing and one thing only keeps him from an F, and that's resistance to federal involvement in gay rights issues. I know that I said that keeps Obama's grade down and now I'm using the same logic to boost McCain's grade, but hear me out. Just like Obama, McCain has opposed federal efforts to curtail gay rights and has said that states should be allowed on their own to decide about gay marriage and civil unions. He's personally opposed, but he doesn't feel that his opposition as an Arizona Senator should prohibit New Hampshire from recognizing gay marriage (I use New Hampshire as an example, not citing anything in specific).

    Results so far:
      Obama McCain
    First Amendment F D-
    Second Amendment D- C-
    Third Amendment B B
    Fourth Amendment D+ D+
    Fifth Amendment D+ B-
    Sixth Amendment B B
    Seventh Amendment C C
    Eighth Amendment C B
    Eleventh Amendment B+ B-
    Thirteenth Amendment D+ B+
    Fourteenth Amendment D+ C+
    Fifteenth Amendment B B
    Nineteenth Amendment B B
    Twenty-First Amendment A- A-
    Twenty-Third Amendment A- B
    Twenty-Fourth Amendment B B
    Twenty-Sixth Amendment B B
    Taxes D B-
    Abortion A+ D
    National ID F F
    Voter ID A+ F
    Card Check F A+
    Legalization of Drugs D+ F
    Gay Rights A- D

    UPDATE: Obama's First Amendment grade lowered to F as documented in this post.

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